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Urgent care clinics see increased demand for COVID-19 testing as cases surge

As COVID-19 cases continue to climb, urgent care is seeing more patients looking for a test. KMBC 9 spoke with doctors about the demand and how to decide when and where to seek care.“Omicron certainly is like a firestorm, it’s sweeping across the country,” said Ginny Boos, PhD., director of infection prevention at Saint Luke’s Health System. That firestorm has led to a testing frenzy. Urgent and convenient care clinics are some of the places seeing a spike. “If you’re symptomatic and you feel like you need to be tested, they can follow up immediately with a PCR,” said Boos, but added that if your symptoms are mild, at-home tests are a good option. “With the current pressures out there, unless you have severe symptoms, probably a good idea just to go ahead and stay home. If you’re positive on a home test, you are positive.”Dr. Raghu Adiga, Liberty Hospital’s chief medical officer, agrees. He says their urgent care clinics are also seeing high demand for testing but shouldn’t be treated as a testing site.“We would like to discourage people from showing up just for getting a test result,” he said, “because that kind of gums up the space and we have a lot of patients who really need to be seen.”He says it can lead to longer wait times for patients who truly need care and put more stress on an already overwhelmed health care system. “As it stands, our health care providers are quite busy taking care of sick people,” Adiga said, “and we want to reduce the burden on them as much as possible.”Doctors advise using dedicated community testing sites or making a testing appointment through your primary care provider. Boos says with the prevalence of omicron, “If you have any of the symptoms, assume that you have the virus until proven otherwise.”Doctors say if you want to get checked out, remember the emergency room should only be for serious cases, with symptoms like “shortness of breath, chest pain, confusion,” Boos said.“(If) you just have fever, sore throat and want to be evaluated, urgent care is probably a much better place than an emergency room for that purpose,” Adiga said. Many health systems, including Saint Luke’s, also offer virtual visits. Providers can address mild symptoms and may be able to schedule a testing appointment for you.

As COVID-19 cases continue to climb, urgent care is seeing more patients looking for a test. KMBC 9 spoke with doctors about the demand and how to decide when and where to seek care.

“Omicron certainly is like a firestorm, it’s sweeping across the country,” said Ginny Boos, PhD., director of infection prevention at Saint Luke’s Health System.

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That firestorm has led to a testing frenzy. Urgent and convenient care clinics are some of the places seeing a spike.

“If you’re symptomatic and you feel like you need to be tested, they can follow up immediately with a PCR,” said Boos, but added that if your symptoms are mild, at-home tests are a good option. “With the current pressures out there, unless you have severe symptoms, probably a good idea just to go ahead and stay home. If you’re positive on a home test, you are positive.”

Dr. Raghu Adiga, Liberty Hospital’s chief medical officer, agrees. He says their urgent care clinics are also seeing high demand for testing but shouldn’t be treated as a testing site.

“We would like to discourage people from showing up just for getting a test result,” he said, “because that kind of gums up the space and we have a lot of patients who really need to be seen.”

He says it can lead to longer wait times for patients who truly need care and put more stress on an already overwhelmed health care system.

“As it stands, our health care providers are quite busy taking care of sick people,” Adiga said, “and we want to reduce the burden on them as much as possible.”

Doctors advise using dedicated community testing sites or making a testing appointment through your primary care provider.

Boos says with the prevalence of omicron, “If you have any of the symptoms, assume that you have the virus until proven otherwise.”

Doctors say if you want to get checked out, remember the emergency room should only be for serious cases, with symptoms like “shortness of breath, chest pain, confusion,” Boos said.

“(If) you just have fever, sore throat and want to be evaluated, urgent care is probably a much better place than an emergency room for that purpose,” Adiga said.

Many health systems, including Saint Luke’s, also offer virtual visits. Providers can address mild symptoms and may be able to schedule a testing appointment for you.